"Want a treat? Yes? Okay. Sit."
[Barely sits, swallows treat whole, runs away.]
"Whose a GOOD BOY?! Theo's a GOOD BOY."
After one year of attempting to train my adopted strong-willed, 4-year-old pup, I finally caved and hired a dog whisperer. (No. This is not his formal job title, but you get the idea.)
Was I skeptical? Yes. Was I hopefully optimistic? Not really.
But I was wrong.
Much to my surprise, Theo didn't just make minor improvements during our 1.5 hour house visit. He made giant leaps, strides, sits, stays. So much so that he was actually complying with the behavioral standards that are used for therapy dogs!
As it turned out, my commands were overused and burnt out — basically, they became white noise. The solution? I needed to change my communication style to get the responses I wanted (and in this case, incorporate hand signals).
(Was this entire blog post an excuse to show you my dog? Maybe.)
Here's the point: how many times do you repeatedly contact a client without getting a response? With billions of emails and calls made each day, we have to find a way to cut through the noise to get a response.
The same communication tactics typically yield the same responses. If you want a different response, you have to try something new.
How does your insurance agency communicate with clients? Depending on who you're trying to reach and what you're trying to accomplish, you probably change your communication tactics, or at least understand that you should. Some of your clients prefer in-person meetings, others email and some text messaging — and if you don't know, just ask.
But as you know, even if someone says what kind of contact they prefer, that doesn't mean they'll actually respond... especially since we work in the insurance industry. In some instances, you're simply reaching out to build and maintain your relationship, but other times you need a response to move forward with a policy, claim or renewal. Luckily there a few tricks you can try to increase the likelihood of a response based on what form of communication you're using.
Tips to increase customer responsiveness in 5 forms of communication
1. Phone calls
- Consider day and time. Wednesday, followed by Thursday, are the best days to make sales calls and the best time is between 4 - 5 PM, followed by 11 AM - 12 PM.
- Know where they are in the buyers journey. Only 19% of buyers want to connect with sales on the phone when they're first learning about a product/service. However, 60% want to connect on the phone after they've researched several options, they're considering which product/service to purchase and want to make an informed decision.
- Use your words wisely.
- Asking "how are you" at the beginning of a call increases your likelihood of booking a meeting by 3.4X, while using "did I catch you at a bad time" decreases your chances by 40%.
- The word "contract" hurts close rates by 7%! Instead, try saying "agreement." Other words to use with caution include competitor, discount and payment.
- Top performing salespeople are more likely to use collaborative language. In fact, using collaborative words, like we, together, our instead of I, me, you, increases sales success rates by 35%!
- Consider day and time. As long as you avoid weekends, there is very little difference on what day you send an email, although some experts recommend Tuesdays and Thursdays. The best time to send an email is anytime before lunch, specifically between 10 - 11 AM (in your clients' time zone).
- Write subject lines carefully.
- 47% of emails are opened based on subject lines alone, and words that imply time sensitivity (like urgent, alert, important) are proven to increase open rates.
- Some of the best words to include in a subject line include: apply, opportunity, demo, connect, payments, conference and cancellation. Words to avoid include: confirm, join, assistance, speaker, press, social and invite.
- Other subject line best practices include using a number (like, 4 reasons to review your insurance policy), adding emojis (‼️⚠️😄) and keeping it brief (between 17-24 characters).
- Be casual. Don't fluff-up your email with industry-speak, jargon and big words. Be personable and write your email as if you were picking up the phone. Emails written at a third grade reading level are 36% more likely to get a response than those written at a college reading level.
3. SMS (Short Messaging Service, i.e. text messaging)
- Don't shy away from SMS. Text messaging is trusted and reliable — 90% of SMS messages are read in the first 3 minutes, 82% of people open every text they recieve and 19% of links in text messages are clicked. Even more interesting is that 74% of consumers said they would like to receive more text messages from businesses and 67% of U.S. smartphone owners said they would like to receive text messages from their bank or financial institutions. Considering you likely have a personal relationship with many of your clients and insurance is a component of financial plans, it's something to consider.
You may also want to think about SMS tactics beyond agent-to-client communication and give it a try from an agency standpoint. Agencies can use SMS to stay in touch with entire personal lines or P&C insurance client bases throughout the year (to give important updates, survey your clients, send friendly holiday messages, etc.) and there are plenty of services available to schedule messages and set up automatic responses. However, just like mass-emailing, your clients must opt-in (sign up or formally agree to) SMS marketing before you can legally contact them.
- Use text messaging when you need immediate action. We're not recommending you send a text message to your client every time you see something interesting or to replace ongoing communication, like newsletters. Save text for important communication when you need a quick response. In fact, people prefer SMS notifications for time-sensitive matters, which are precisely the situations when you really need a response.
- Be brief and clear. Depending on a person's cell phone service, messages over 160 characters will be broken up into multiple texts. Let's be honest, receiving multiple messages before you've had a chance to respond to one can be annoying (especially when it isn't your mom or significant other). So, when possible, keep your messages short and to the point.
If an action is needed, be clear about it. CTAs (calls to action) tell people exactly what they should do and are powerful in all forms of communication. For example, you could say, "Hi Brian. In order to move forward with your claim, please go to myclaimsite.com and submit the form by 8 PM. Please let me know any questions. Thank you!" (That message is 154 characters, so when I say brief... I mean brief!)
4. Social media
- Don't measure direct responses. 78% of salespeople who use social media outsell their peers! However, social media shouldn't be used when you need a direct response, because it isn't a direct form of communication. Instead of thinking about social as a way to get direct responses, think of it as a way to build trust and awareness.
- Post with purpose. There's a big difference between having a personal social media account and a business social media page. Whereas your personal account is "me" focused, your business page should be "you" focused. Talk about what your clients are interested in, not what your business is doing. Some simple ways to increase engagement include asking questions, sharing other people's/business' content, adding images/videos, using hashtags and running contests.
- Consider posting day and time. Consistency and timing are very important for social media success. Because it isn't a direct form of communication, you need to weigh the odds of when people are online and post around those times. Here are the best days and times to post on social media:
- Facebook: post weekdays between 10 AM - 3 PM
- Twitter: post any day between 10 AM - 12 PM
- LinkedIn: post Tuesday - Thursday between 3 PM - 5 PM
- Instagram: post Tuesday - Friday between 9 AM - 6 PM
- Know their friends. Referrals are king. B2B buyers are 5X more likely to engage when they are introduced, and you're 4.2X more likely to get an appointment if you have a connection with a buyer. Even if you can't get a direct introduction/referral, if you work within a niche industry, mention that you work with other clients who have similar needs and try to build a personal connection.
- Be aware of your nonverbal communication skills. Simply having "just the right" eye contact (ranging from 30-60% of the time) provokes a feeling of likability and trustworthiness. Other cues like smiling, asking questions, appearing interested, having an open and confident posture, looking relaxed and using gestures can all impact how someone feels about you. And we all know it's much easier to ignore or dismiss someone you don't like.
- Follow up immediately. If you stop by a business and someone seems interested in allowing you to look over their policy and present them with options, do NOT wait to follow up. A study of American companies found that those who reached out to a lead within an hour were 7X more likely to have a meaningful conversation with a decision maker.
The truth is, there isn't a "secret code" to unlock the holy grail of insurance agent and client communication. We're all bombarded with messages every day and no matter what we try, some people may never respond. However, it's important to really analyze your communication and maximize your efforts. Do you sound like a broken record? Are your requests burnt out? Do you need to try something new? All we can do is try our best and remember that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. 🐾
Bri Burkhart, Marketing
Bri is an over-enthusiastic dog mom, pop culture fanatic and Instagram addict. She enjoys eating pizza, practicing yoga and hiking.
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